Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin and a few other opioid painkillers, has received a patent for a “new” medication to treat opioid addiction. This is in the wake of a $3.4 million donation to Harm Reduction Therapeutics, manufacturer of naloxone—or Narcan, a nasal spray used to counteract deadly overdoses. These new advances have left some consumers wondering: Have company leaders grown a collective conscience, or are they just trying to save business?
More About Purdue Pharma and the Possible Motivations Behind this New Patent
Over 49,000 people died last year due to opioid overdose, compared to over 42,000 deaths in 2016. This number has been on a steady incline despite efforts made by law enforcement and other drug manufacturers.
Purdue has long been in the spotlight over its role in the opioid crisis. In 2007, it pleaded guilty to felony charges for misleading practices that contributed greatly to patient addiction. The company paid a $600 million fine, but according to cbsnews.com, Purdue never changed its shady practices.
Purdue’s new patent is for a reformulation of buprenorphine, a medication the company first patented in 2010 and has reformulated for re-patent at least twice before now. While the drug is currently available in tablet and quick-dissolving strips, this “new” drug comes in a quick-dissolving wafer.
So, is this new form actually better than any of the last, or is this just another tactic to re-patent the drug? With Purdue’s most recent patent on buprenorphine being in 2014, there’s a good chance the company will lose exclusivity rights to it next year, which means lost revenue. Exclusive rights to a medication generally expire within five years of the patent.
Purdue has boldly stated it will not receive any royalties on its naloxone donation, which is reportedly in a joint effort with Harm Reduction Therapeutics to reduce Narcan prices —currently set at $125 per dose. However, this has nothing to do with the new patent on buprenorphine, which will likely bring in plenty of new-drug revenue for the company. Given generic versions of medications usually cost the consumer 90 percent less than their patent-protected versions, the math speaks for itself.
Purdue may very well have altruistic motivations behind these new moves. Time will tell. In the meantime, the opioid epidemic continues to run rampant. If you or someone you know may have a problem with painkillers, talk to a trusted professional about current treatment options.